Tag Archives: how to top the board exam

A Friendship Forged by Skyflakes

(This might not instantly sound like a board exam tip, but it is. Just read through.)

Being the youngest engineer in our company, I discovered how I sorely miss having peers to mentally spar thoughts with. I had a lot of these peer-given intellectual stimulation from college days, board exam review, and my other two jobs. During my board exam review, a huge component of the success we (UP graduates) had as a team came from the very solid support that we got from each other.  One of the joys of learning is discovering things at the same time with another person who loves the industry or subject as much as you do.

You might think that I had a lot of support during review. In fact, I spent a great deal of my time crying especially during the last 3 months of it. I had numerous arguments with my mother during review season. She told me that my preparations were overkill whenever I ask her to turn the television off while I am reviewing.

My immediate family suffered a lot from my “extreme” measures of preparing for the license exam. This is one painful truth about aspiring for something. As a person preparing for board exam, you can silently expect to be ostracized by people who are not able to understand the magnitude of your board exam preparations. You will get criticized, you may be called “OA”, and even your own school might not be as supportive with your efforts especially if they think that board exams are just a giant dog and pony show.

There may be some truth in the fact that a board exam does not make an engineer in the truest sense of the word. But it still brings in a lot of advantage in your career advancement. As you advance, you can be opposed heavily even by people you expect to understand you at this phase. But you have to be determined enough to surmount those insults and just keep striving to give it your all. These adversities will prompt you to answer this question: How much do you want this? How far are you willing to let this take you?

My concept for overpreparing during review is that I wanted to trudge through life with no regrets. I don’t want to look at my score in the board exam and have a what if nagging in my head. I don’t want to give less than my best and then ask myself later: What if I studied harder? Would I have gotten a better score if I ditched my other work or lessened my Facebook time? I actually have board exam buddies who had that in their head and well, it’s not really a very peaceful afterthought though you can eventually get over it.

As far as I know, I gave that exam my best shot and I was fortunate to discover that my efforts somehow loved me back. In love or relationships, you can give everything you’ve got and still be unappreciated. But in your studies, work and board exam, you can give it your all and somehow expect a good thing coming back.

The other day, I slept at my fiancé’s house and I experienced the other side of the fence, so to speak. My SO’s sister is preparing for her design defense and juggling it with her board exam review with other fellow students. This translates to numerous overnight sessions with a lot of engineering guys and girls, that are, in a young females’ family’s point of view, very difficult to adjust to. I had those too in college and my mom hated the fact that a new person kept sleeping at our place every other night. It’s really a thing that consumes resources.

Board exam season is not the right time to deal with heavily emotional issues. Avoid all distractions if humanely possible. If people criticize you for your methods of preparing for your exam, please don’t take it personally. Remember this: only those who are able to experience the actual pressure of reviewing and getting the license with some ambition to aim a good slot or rank will be able to commiserate, understand your situation, and make allowances for you. The true test is that even when you have all these hassles and lack of support from your loved ones, you should still want to become a licensed engineer.

Having said that, it might be good to buddy up with the right people for the much-needed support. During review class, don’t sit with people who do nothing but chitchat about other things and who do not know what they want out of the exam. I mean, it’s good to have a break once in a while and I am a fairly talkative person with people that I like. But when it comes to the actual business of absorbing as much information as possible for the board exam, it is best to sit with like-minded people with the same goals as you have. You can be charitable enough to teach others what you know after you made your preparations solidly. But you cannot let toxic people eat your time and discourage you from your goals for the exam.

To balance, I have to say that it is not just about you at this phase. You also need to consider your family or loved ones who are suffering from your new schedule. In my case, I decided to move out of my house so that I can study in a quiet place and that my family can resume watching noontime shows or whatever they feel like doing at home. I also decided not to eat too much (it makes me really sleepy when I do that!) and settled on veggies, soya, and Skyflakes to avoid ulcers. I do this so that my minimal allowance from my father monthly will not be wasted. I try to preserve the monthly allowance as much as I can because I decided not to work during review and money does not come from trees.

Speaking of Skyflakes… I had a good friend during board exam that turned out to be one of my closest friends beyond board exam. His name is Homer. It was a friendship forged by Skyflakes because we can only afford to eat Skyflakes and a regular-sized container of french fries during our overnight sessions at Mcdo Morayta.

We talk almost everyday during board exam review. Until now, we find ourselves talking with each other regularly about life, about work, and about how we got here from where we were before. I cannot imagine life without one of my good friends.

Certainly, there have been many changes. We used to be wide-eyed engineer wannabes who like playing with the Crystal Eye webcam of our classmate:


He graduated cum laude and he had the pressure to live up to during the exam. People were somehow relying on him to top the exam. I had the pressure to make the most of the exam because I had a challenging schedule as a working student in college. Somewhere, our goals intersected and we used that to sharpen each other’s saw intellectually.

We are now both licensed engineers. We got what we want and more. He is now happily employed in the banking sector. I guess we are not filthy rich like most people, but we can somehow afford a good meal, like an occasional Friday night dinner:




We had buffalo wings, tempura, fried rice, and that weird froyo dessert Teriyaki Boy had been promoting in their menu listing. The dessert was not as good as we expected, but the buffalo wings are spicy and extremely rich in flavor.


Strangely, I already mentioned our top 1 engineer (Machele), my model bestfriend Jhona (top 8), and my little brother Joseph (top 9) in this blog, but I have not yet made a post about Homer, who succeeded in garnering third place in that same board exam. So I am making this board exam tip post today as a form of thanks to my good friend Homer for being with me during board exam and beyond.


As we watched the Cubao night scene from where we were seated, we talked about how things have turned out for us professionally including the numerous adversities we encountered as students and aspiring engineers.


Another unspoken but true lesson learned from preparing for the board exam is that you will know who your true friends are under the times of severe stress. If you are open and fortunate, you can also find the best people you can spend your life with as you hit those books and crunch those numbers in your PRC-approved calculator. Another engineer I know met her partner in life during review classes. The possibilities are endless, really. It’s not always about getting the best grade there is, although you can wear yourself out trying to achieve things.

So to those who are having a hard time during review and are experiencing the frictions that only the pressure of the board exam can provide, here’s one tried and tested advice:  toughen up with the insults, get working with laser-beam focus on your study plan, make friends with the good bunch for support, kill distractions immediately, and do your best.

In truth, there are no physical costs equivalent to a real friendship but they’re absolutely priceless. The relationship may or may not be perpetually sustained by expensive night outs of wine or a night out at a nice place like Teriyaki Boy. Sometimes, the best moments involve munching on Skyflakes mindlessly while juggling index cards that need memorizing with a down-to-earth person that you can be comfortably yourself with.

Homer and I may be eating and sharing more than Skyflakes at this phase of life, but I will always remember him fondly as the review buddy who linked an armpit mnemonic (private joke ito!) to presidential decrees with me as we juggled our numerous thoughts on life and on our goals. Thank you so much, Homer, and see you tomorrow. :)

Should I Get a Job during Board Exam Review?

I know It’s been AGES since I posted another board exam tip. It did not help that my first three posts of board exam tips got lost in the last hacking attack on Helena blog. Sorry to that guy who emailed to ask where the other three posts are; even I do not have backup copies. I hope you are still reading this blog because I was unable to email you back that time.

I will be revamping this blog very soon (as soon as my poor head comes to a decision on how to revamp it), but I can no longer ignore the emails I have been receiving from board exam reviewees who are waiting for another post. I am thankful and blessed to hear stories of people who passed their exam or find this blog useful. I am kind of hoping that beyond the board exam tips, I can still offer other valuable posts for more readers.

For this post, I am going to answer a popular question which I recently answered to this year’s batch of GE reviewees in UP in our organization. Some of the people I talk to keep their jobs; some take a leave one or two months before the actual board exam. It’s different strokes for different folks.

But I did not work at all while I was reviewing, not even to do freelance writing. I was sorely tempted, yes. But I gritted my teeth and focused on becoming an engineer.

Honestly, I cannot really tell everyone to quit their jobs because reviewing for a board exam and taking review classes cost a lot of money. And those who have families to support immediately after graduation will not be able to do this. I was only able to focus on my board exam review for nine months because my father agreed to give me a monthly allowance. I am forever grateful for that. It was good that my own father agreed that he wants me to achieve the highest possible grade I can get in the board exam and made sure I eat three square meals per day despite my unemployment.

Now, during my time, I had 4 hours per day in Review Innovations Study Center from Monday to Friday. It was from 5pm to 9pm. Basically, I had the mornings and afternoons to myself. But I used them well.

I followed a rule of three for mastery: tackle a concept three times and you will master it. The first time, you go through it during your personal review. The second time, you go through it during review classes. The third time, you go through it during refresher classes.

I was unable to study thrice for all topics covered in the board exam. I was only able to do two for some and 2.5 for the others. There were some which were easy to go over three times because I naturally liked those subjects.

But here’s the thing, even if your parents cannot support you, you can take a personal loan for at least 4 months before your board exam. Sure, it will cost you an arm and leg and this giant utang na loob to your “financer” because you will basically find a job after board exam and you might have to suffer more financially at that waiting period. But during review, that debt may psychologically push you to do better in your review. Umutang ka na rin lang, itodo mo na ang pag-aaral, diba. But it’s quite risky.

I have seen working reviewees and I was convinced that all that fatigue I witnessed from them is something I cannot handle. My schedule during review was made in such a way that I get a full 7 hours of sleep every night from January to August. A week before my board exam, I slept 8 hours per night. I ate vegetables, soya milk, and all those brain food I can get my hands on. I avoided getting sick and I only missed one day during review because of a lousy asthma attack. Even when my gold earrings got snatched in a jeepney going to Recto, I still went to class.

I humbly acknowledge that my style may no longer be feasible for some of my readers. But my advice still stands: if you can find a way or afford not to work while reviewing, do it! :D







Tips on Simulating Your Board Exam during Review

After what seemed like 48 years of not blogging informative stuff, I finally came out of this offline workaholic cave to give this new post as part of my board exam tips series. To see previous board exam tip posts, you can click on the related posts featured after this article or go to the Sitemap above and click on the tags labelled board exam. It is already the end of the first half of the year, and God knows where my board exam subscribers are by now. I hope and pray they are fine, wherever they are, and ehem, still open to learning more tips from yours truly. In this post, I invite you to take a trip down memory lane with me when I was still pining for the much coveted and occasionally Recto-faked PRC ID.

When I was reviewing for the board exam, I was completely immersed in the task. Obsessed may even be an understatement. Even my bedroom wall was full of posted reviewers:

One would think I’d be very confident after having read, viewed, and listened to all these tools. But when exam time came, I was still a nervous wreck and I even had LBM on the first day of my board exam. It was THAT bad. But then, I will be posting about that some other time. For now, I am going to give some tips on how you can recreate the board exam experience without having to take it twice or more. You can also check out my previous board exam tips, because I won’t be repeating the same tips I have already given in my previous posts.

What is the importance of simulating the board exam? It is a simple mind over matter thing, really. We humans are creatures of habit. If you are able to condition yourself to something, you become more easily attuned to it. And in a challenging exam with time pressure, you need all the conditioning you can get. I shall not dilly dally any further because word economy is a must these busy days. I will share how I simulated my board exam, and I hope I can help you simulate yours.

I am really a person who loves books. But even if I had that inclination, there was actually a point in my life I already hated looking at these two reviewing “Bibles” of geodetic engineering:

That image of the “true size and shape of the earth” that we geodetic engineers are supposed to be known for haunted me in my dreams and in the pockets of leisure time I forced myself to have then. Even on my self-imposed zero review day Sundays, I imagined the various astronomic coordinate systems during the Mass in San Roque Cathedral because they had this dome-like detail in the ceiling that is shaped like half of a sphere. One time, while I was aboard a jeep going to my rented room near UP Campus, I saw a building that had “Parole” inscribed in it. But because of excessive reading of legal property laws, I actually read that word as “Parcel”. I had to blink twice and look at it again after a minute to see the correct spelling.

Once you get into that type of review mode, it is a little hard to get out. But it’s okay. You can go the extra mile. Because what separates the ordinary passers from the extraordinary passers are the little extras that we have been discussing so far.

First, I found it most useful when I was answering sample problems and questions using a simulated answer sheet. I don’t know how you will do this, but mine looked something like this:

What did I know then? I knew that the exam was multiple choice, and we will be tasked to mark an X or shade the real answer sheet during the real board exam. So why spend time placing answers to multiple choice questions on a notebook or on the sides of the reviewers, as most students are prone to do? I did my very best to simulate the answer sheet by photocopying and binding a set of sheets. This idea was a superb tip given by Dhax Sensei, by the way.

For one, when you use a simulated answer sheet, you will find that your books will be free of ugly markings and you can be the kind senior who can lend the future review students some old materials once you pass the board exam. The other tools for answering must also be taken into consideration. If you will be using pencil during the board exam, use pencil for shading or crossing your simulated answer sheet. I knowwww, it may be hard to part ways with that cute pen that you are used to on ordinary days. But if you will be using pencil for the exam, start loving those pencils more until you get your license, at least.

Some of you may laugh at the absurdity of these suggestions. You might say: ang OA mo naman, Helen, talagang kinarir mo yung board exam mo. But you know what? When you are already in that air conditioned room and sweating profusely as you answer those board exam questions, the last thing you need is a lack of adjustment in using the Mongol No. 2 pencil or the lack of manual dexterity to shade the correct number corresponding to the item in the questionnaire. There may be right minus wrong portions and zero erasure policies that you might want to take seriously. And imagine the horrors of already answering half of the exam, only to realize around 30 minutes before the time that you missed shading a number and all the things you shaded were wrong. Horrors! Panic! These things can happen and they have happened to many others. Do not let yourself be another casualty or unnamed statistic hiding under the PRC’s record logs. It will be hard to tell your parents, your barangay captain, and your other supporters at home that you failed the exam because of technical problems like that.

Moreover, I economized in the use of scratch papers. When I answered sample problems on my simulated answer sheet book, I was also just using the back of the simulated paper for solutions.

And it has paid me well, not to mention allowed me to give some love to the environment. But then, you will still need some yellow notebooks and yellow notepads for notes, important terms, and concepts.

Another little thing that will help you simulate the actual board exam is to abide your problem solving sessions in line with the board exam’s actual schedule or time. (thanks again, Dhax sensei) What time is your board exam? If it is from 8am to 6pm, what the heck are you doing solving Math problems until 2am? Solve it from 8am to 6pm, and you will have heaps of advantage at having conditioned yourself so well. This is a tried and tested thing that has worked for me and my review buddies, who were also topnotchers.

In Review Innovations, the center where I reviewed last year, we students had a Pre-Board Examination that simulated the exam. But it only occurred once after the review sessions and before the refresher course. I did my very best to recreate the same experience over and over again in the comforts of my home, where I had to overcome supreme distractions (there will be a separate post on eliminating distractions next time!).

In two months’ time, there will be new topnotchers and new issued PRC ID’s in our field this year. It’s really a short-lived glory. The moment of achievement I had last October 2010 was fleeting, but it gave me enough encouragement to begin this series and empower other people as they get their licenses (photo credit for next image goes to Engr. Alan Alarcon):

On my end, I am merely taking the time (whatever is left of it) to pay all the tips forward as much as I possibly can. This is my way of showing real gratitude to the individuals who helped me top the board exam last year.

And personally, I nurture a soft spot for those who had to take the board exam again, because it need not be something that you have to go through over and over again. The pressure just multiplies each time you fail and there is greater need to mindset and manage the time and resources wisely to get that license.

I am hoping that this blog reaches through those who really need the tips to redeem themselves and get that license. And yes, don’t be selfish; share those tips to your fellow review buddies using the Share buttons below. Previous board exam passers who have additional ideas regarding simulating the board exam experience during review may also feel free to comment here and in my other board exam tip posts.

It was quite a moment in Manila Hotel’s sub-presidential table during our October 2010 oath taking:

(photo credit for this image goes to Engr. Alan Alarcon)

They said I looked like Lorna Tolentino in this shot. I was actually aiming for a, uhm, younger target market, but this will do. Hahaha!

Most of the things I did during my board exam review are available here in this blog. So you already have your college degree and these techniques to help you.

Bottom line: Goals can be within reach. If I was able to do it, so can you! :D

A useful final quote: Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Much love from my PC to yours! ;-)